Artificial intelligence and building trust ecosystems will be top technology trends for CIOs and business leaders to pay attention to in 2022.
AI will continue to be an enterprise standout over the next three years, according to Gartner analyst David Groombridge. Whether it's generative AI that uses existing content to create new, similar content, or more futuristic endeavors such as autonomic systems that improve their algorithms automatically without software updates, AI should remain a focus area for CIOs in 2022.
But Groombridge as well as Forrester Research analyst Brian Hopkins aren't only focused on what's next technologically for businesses in 2022, they're also thinking about what CIOs need to do strategically. Hopkins said that for CIOs to take advantage of technologies like AI, it's important to focus on establishing trust with other businesses and building a network that can maximize opportunities.
Groombridge echoed Hopkins' thinking, adding that it's critical for CIOs heading into 2022 to have an objective for new and emerging technologies and to execute that plan.
"It's essential for CIOs to plan to take advantage of trends in the marketplace," Groombridge said.
Generative AI, AI engineering
Generative AI, algorithms that assess existing data, such as text, audio or visual files, recognize the underlying pattern of that data and then replicate the pattern to generate similar content, is a top technology trends for CIOs to watch in 2022, Groombridge said.
Generative AI can be used to discover new products in research and development settings, he said.
"There have been uses of it to identify new medicines and it was even used to rapidly identify potential treatments for COVID, for example," he said.
On the operational side of AI, Groombridge said it will be crucial for CIOs to pay attention to AI engineering, a discipline focused on designing systems and applications to better utilize and optimize AI in the enterprise.
As businesses recognize AI's potential and rush to build products, they will likely encounter a new challenge -- maintaining the AI algorithms. As input data for models changes and as business outcomes change, the models themselves need adjusting. Lack of maintenance can cause the AI algorithms to eventually lose value, Groombridge said.
David Groombridge Analyst, Gartner
Following an AI engineering discipline and using automated, integrated data pipelines for enterprise-wide updates and changes to AI tech and processes will help preserve the value of AI systems in the long term, Groombridge said.
For those who haven't considered the chore of maintaining AI algorithms over time, business leaders will be forced to go through a lengthy process of manually updating a "complex interplay between data, the AI model and the applications that are using that."
"AI engineering seeks to operationalize all of that and ensure that there are rapid and automated ways of rolling out updates to the AI to ensure that value is sustained," he said.
Down the road
For Groombridge, autonomic systems are "the trend with the longest horizon to it" and one of the most exciting long-term trends for CIOs to keep an eye on.
Autonomic systems make their own choices and operate independently. They're able to learn and adjust their behavior in response to experiences and altered conditions.
"It doesn't have to wait for that software update to be pushed down by a manufacturer; it can change its own algorithms automatically," he said.
Autonomic systems are designed to work in complex environments with rapidly changing conditions, such as in cybersecurity where the threat landscape is constantly shifting, he said.
Other cutting-edge technologies that gained traction in the market this year but likely won't be pressing for CIOs in 2022 include quantum computing, blockchain, nonfungible tokens and cryptocurrency, Groombridge said.
While some industries have made technologies like these an important part of their companies' technical capabilities, the impact to IT business leaders now is still low, Groombridge said.
"The question we had to answer was: Is that sufficiently well-advanced that it will impact 20% of our clients in the next three years?" Groombridge said. "At this stage, we didn't feel there was a strong enough trend that we would include those."
Approaching new tech trends
Groombridge said regardless of the technology trends CIOs pay attention to in 2022, it's important to first understand the business strategy and then to build an IT strategy that delivers on that strategy. To accelerate delivery, CIOs should evaluate the tech trends and determine which ones are right for the business's priorities, taking the company's technical maturity into account.
For example, businesses that are more technically advanced and want to maximize data value would likely benefit from trends like generative AI and AI engineering, as well as autonomic systems in the future.
"I think for any CIO, you must evaluate the trends you see in the marketplace against your business priorities and make a conscious decision as to whether to adopt them now, keep [an eye] on them or ignore them," Groombridge said.
Building trust ecosystems
Forrester's Brian Hopkins said the game has changed when it comes to CIOs taking advantage of emerging technologies in the market.
Due to the number of technologies, as well as CIOs' ability to exploit those technologies, IT teams need to start thinking beyond the effects of one tech to how groups of tech may affect business outcomes, according to Hopkins.
"What you should be asking is, 'How do I recognize opportunities to exploit a broad range of technologies that are working together to accelerate business outcomes?'" he said.
Hopkins said the way for CIOs to do that is by building trust ecosystems, which are built through authentications that give businesses control over what data is shared and how. In a trust ecosystem, businesses work collaboratively to apply emerging technology onto their business models; by relying on an authentication process, they can trust that their data is only being used as permitted.
The authentications can be achieved through blockchain technology to create smart contracts between businesses that protect individual data. Smart contracts are automated agreements between participants.
Hopkins said the trust established by multiple businesses working together and relying on a broad range of existing and emerging technologies to improve business outcomes is the business model CIOs should aim for in 2022.
"Trust ecosystems and all the technologies that enable the building and keeping of trust, that's the future," he said.
Makenzie Holland is a news writer covering big tech and federal regulation. Prior to joining TechTarget, she was a general reporter for the Wilmington StarNews and a crime and education reporter at the Wabash Plain Dealer.